Ukraine Disrupts My Brain

Can you read books when war is breaking out? I’ve tried this week, but I just can’t. It was even hard to read lengthy articles about Ukraine that I want to read. I watched Biden’s Thursday press conference, and felt as if we are conceding Ukraine to Putin, accepting the fact that Putin will install a puppet government despite all the sanctions because he knows NATO troops will leave him alone for now. 

Putin has been making his world safe for this assault for all of 2021. Germany usually stockpiles natural gas during the summer because their current pipeline from Russia doesn’t have the capacity to meet their winter demand. But last summer, Putin didn’t deliver enough to permit their normal stockpiling. On the financial front, Putin has been keeping as much money as possible out of western financial institutions. So he’s prepared for a long stretch of sanctions. 

I looked online for a list of countries currently in NATO. The map is interesting, actually. Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland border Ukraine. The Baltic countries border either Belarus or Russia. Finland is not in NATO, nor is Moldova (yet). (Do you know anything about Moldova? I know nothing.) And we shouldn’t forget that little chunk of land between Lithuania and Poland that is separated from the rest of Russia, but is still Russia, kind of like Alaska is disconnected, but still in the US (and Hawaii, of course). 

So the geography is a mess. As is the history. A Ukrainian friend from years past described Ukraine as a doormat on which competing armies have wiped their feet for centuries. Yet it has maintained its language and seems determined to maintain its independence today. I suspect people there are taking the long view, namely that Putin might get his puppet who will govern for the near future, but that Ukraine will eventually be independent once again. If they try to prevent Putin from installing a puppet government, there are unlikely to be any Ukranians left to enjoy their freedom. Hope I’m wrong on that.

The good news, as of Friday, is that the stock market (DJIA) is up. Way up. I wanted to throw up when I saw that. Why? Are companies set to benefit from this war? Are they assuming that we can deter the cyberattacks that are sure to come? Maybe we can respond in kind, but cyber warfare is the new nuclear threat, except that the nuclear threat is not actually gone. How can anyone be bidding up stocks today? I don’t get it. 

Will sanctions work? Will Ukraine exist by Monday? Lots of questions in the air. Whose opinions do you read at times like this? Here’s one by Paul Krugman about sanctions that was quite edifying regarding how much money Russia’s oligarchs have stashed in various assets outside of Russia. One thing we’ll have to think about is how many Americans (and Brits and others) have close ties to those oligarchs. Krugman asks if we’re willing to go after our own kleptocrats. Maybe this war will push that question up to where we’ll have to address it. 

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